Matthew Sampson and Paul Walker Claim Top Honors in $50,000 Equiline Holiday Finale Grand Prix

Matthew Sampson and Paul Walker ©Anne Gittins Photography

Wellington, FL – January 3, 2021 – Competition came to an end at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on Sunday in the International Arena with the $50,000 Equiline Holiday Finale Grand Prix. Thirty-four riders representing 11 nations competed over the course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA). Last to go in the jump-off, Matthew Sampson (GBR) piloted Gut Einhaus, LLC’s Paul Walker to the fastest time of the class to claim victory. Sunday’s classes concluded the ESP Holiday Finale Show as well as the ESP Holiday Series. Competition will begin again Wednesday, January 6, for the Premiere Week of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival, which will take place over 13 weeks and conclude April 4, 2021.

Matthew Sampson and Paul Walker, pictured with Kelly Molinari, Managing Director of Equiline America, took home the blue ribbon in the $50,000 Equiline Holiday Finale Grand Prix. ©Anne Gittins Photography

“He’s an incredible horse. He has jumped two classes since he’s been in Florida. That was two weeks ago before Christmas and he was clear in both,” Sampson said of the 2011 Hanoverian gelding by Perigueux x Cornet Obolensky. “It’s my first time in Florida, so it’s been a great start. The course was good, the first round was a long and really careful course, which suited my horse in particular because he is so careful.”

The first course that the horses and riders were tested over consisted of 13 fences, and nine duos successfully completed the first round to advance to the seven-fence jump-off. Sixth in the original order, Sydney Shulman (ISR) and Jill Shulman’s J-Boston S.E. were the first to go clear, followed by Luis Pedro Biraben (ARG) aboard his own Chacco Bumpy to force a jump-off. The seven additional riders to join the jump-off were Molly Ashe Cawley (USA), Jessica Mendoza (GBR), Jacqueline Steffens (CAN), Mac Cone (CAN), Paul O’Shea (IRL), Simon McCarthy (IRL), and Matthew Sampson (GBR).

First to return to the ring over the short course, Shulman and J-Boston S.E. were able to produce a second fault-free ride to set the pace with a time of 39.42 seconds. Mendoza and Carly Day’s Casanova 499 soon took over the lead after stopping the timers at 38.86 seconds. The duo remained in first until the last rider, Sampson, sliced a full second off of Mendoza’s leading time, piloting Paul Walker to a winning time of 37.52 seconds to secure the lead spot in the victory gallop.

“I always know that Jessica Mendoza is fast because I’ve been riding against her all our lives, so I just tried to do as much as I could without doing anything crazy to knock a fence down, and luckily it paid off!” Sampson commented regarding his plan for the jump-off. “I got six strides to the double which is quite a long distance. Jessica did seven and then I got one less stride to the last fence. Jessica did do one less stride than me to the second fence, but I think the one less stride to the double was what probably helped us out.”

Second-place honors went to Mendoza aboard Casanova 499, a 2011 Holsteiner mare by Clarimo x Contender, with a double-clear ride and jump-off time of 38.86 seconds. Less than a second behind, Shulman and Jill Shulman’s 2009 BWP gelding by Boris van het Kluizebos, J-Boston S.E., stopped the clock at 39.42 seconds to round out the podium.

Erynn Ballard and Toy Boy, pictured with Kaitlin Porath, Equiline Marketing Coordinator, were victorious in the $10,000 Equiline 1.40m Open Stake. ©Anne Gittins Photography

The $10,000 Equiline 1.40m Open Stake took place on Thursday afternoon in the International Arena. Course designer D’Ambrosio designed a first-round course of 12 fences and an abridged seven-fence jump-off to test entries. Ten of the 35 horse-and-rider combinations in the class cleared the first round and advanced to the short course. Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Ilan Ferder’s Nespresso Van Het Binnenvel were the first to go and set the pace with a double-clear round in 36.28 seconds. The pair held onto the lead until Ballard went on her fourth mount in the class, Ferder’s Toy Boy, and beat her previous time as the duo crossed the timers in 35.64 seconds. It turned out to be a successful class for Ballard as she finished in first place riding Toy Boy and in the runner-up spot with Nespresso Van Het Binnenvel. Third place honors went to Andrea Torres Guerreiro (USA) and Santa Catalina Farm’s Fifty Shades, who stopped the clock at 37.46 seconds with no faults. 

Rachel McMullen and Deavantus were victorious in the $2,500 Equiline High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. ©Anne Gittins Photography

Competition on the main stage on Saturday began with Ballard once again claiming victory, this time in the $5,000 Pilates Rocks 1.35m Classic. Thirty-three riders competed over the 12-fence first-round track, and 11 pairs advanced to the jump-off. Eighth in the order, Ballard piloted Ferder’s Insider BH to a winning time of 31.45 seconds. Second-place honors were earned by Devon MacNeil (USA) aboard her own Cajo after they stopped the clock fault-free in 31.92 seconds. Luiza Leivas Da Costa (BRA) and Bonne Chance Farm LLC’s Luziada Jmen raced to a clear time of 32.54 seconds to take home third place. 

The $2,500 Equiline High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic took place on Sunday in the International Arena, with a talented group of contenders competing for the blue ribbon. In the end, Rachel McMullen on her own Deavantus were the fastest duo in the four-horse jump-off. McMullen of Chagrin Falls, OH, and Deavantus produced the winning time of 38.22 seconds for the blue ribbon. Second place honors went to Vanessa Hood of Wellington, FL, and Take Two LLC’s Casstina H, who stopped the timers at 39.95 seconds. Wellington, FL, resident Devon MacNeil and her Vinci De Beaufour rode to a time of 39.56 seconds for a third-place finish.  

Sloan Hopson and Dalida won the the $2,500 Medium Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. ©Anne Gittins Photography

Fourteen riders took to the International Arena on Sunday morning for the $2,500 Equiline Medium Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. Six pairs successfully completed the first course to advance to the jump-off, where nobody could beat Sloan Hopson’s winning time. Hopson of Houston, TX, and her own Dalida stopped the clock at 38.99 seconds to take home top honors. Right behind Hopson and Dalida was Paige Matthies of Lake Leelanau, MI, and Ashland Farm’s Qutaira. The duo finished on a time of 39.71 seconds to finish in second place. Third place was earned by Sabrina Lefebvre of St. Anne De, QC, riding her own Happy Melody De La with a time of 42.46 seconds. \

For the full results of the $50,000 Equiline Holiday Finale Grand Prix, click HERE.